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Grind Before You Graduate - How to Build Your Portfolio in a Challenging Hiring Market

The key to standing out amongst other recent grads? Real-world experience.

Marc Anthony Rodriguez, Blogger

April 24, 2024

3 Min Read

Graduation season is just a few weeks away, and the competition for coveted game development jobs is intense. Layoffs have tightened the market, making it crucial for aspiring developers to stand out. Unfortunately, a degree doesn’t guarantee employment, especially when you’re competing with hungry, experienced developers affected by the contraction.

The key to standing out amongst other recent grads? Real-world experience. Here's an inspiring example of how student developers gained valuable industry knowledge through a unique project partnership with VoxPop Games.


Our company’s mission is to elevate new studios and young talent who want to launch games. We partner with universities to give students experience working on collaborative projects like DOSMan’s ‘Reaper,’ a fast-paced FPS reminiscent of classic 90s shooters like Doom.

Aspiring game developers Dilshoda Sayfillaeva of Stony Brook University and Kadin White of Bradley University gained invaluable insights while actively contributing to the project alongside industry professionals.

From Classroom to Game Studio

"Players usually just play the game," said Dilshoda. “They don't think about the programming and sound effects. This project showed me how long it takes – and how every detail has to be perfect."

This hands-on experience is what sets students apart in a challenging job market. Employers can see that you've faced the realities of a development cycle, from concept to launch.


The Value of Soft Skills

Working on 'Reaper' wasn't just about coding and art.

"Communication can be a big issue in the workplace, especially for a remote team. But everything worked the best when we over communicated,” said Dilshoda. “Plus experience is something that takes a lot of time to earn, and getting it in a friendly environment is really hard to find.”

Teamwork, especially with people from different specializations, is what makes games happen – and these partnerships show a hiring manager you have those skills.

The Full Picture

"I wanted to learn more about marketing," said Kadin. "Seeing what goes into a Steam page, those are things you don't even think about as a player. I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone to learn and build upon my core skills."

Understanding the whole process makes you better at any specific role, and it shows you what to expect from your first industry job.

Advice: Finding Opportunities

Experiences like this are crucial, especially when graduates face a tough market. If you're a game development student, keep a few things in mind:

  • Seek out project teams who actively seek student partnerships.

  • Look for college programs connecting students with local studios.

  • Join online industry communities where smaller projects are formed.

With the industry landscape constantly shifting, we here at VoxPop believe in giving students the tools and support to navigate those changes. These partnerships not only prepare them for the realities of game development but also give us valuable insights into the expectations of the next generation of game creators. 

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